Mounts’ comeback bid falls just short vs. Spot
By: TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com, Staff Writer
They say you only get one chance to make a good first impression.
And if that is indeed the case, the Ephrata boys and new Coach Jason Coletti succeeded in nearly every way Monday night in the season opener at home vs. Garden Spot.
The only thing they didn’t accomplish was win the game, but that seemed almost secondary as the Mounts, coming off an ugly 1-21 season, showed enough promise and heart in this one game against a senior-laden Spartan squad to quickly put the memory of last year in the rearview mirror.
Trailing 17-9 after one period and by 12 points early in the third quarter, the Mounts stormed all the way back to take their only lead of the game with 1:15 to go on a Brian Neff steal and lay-up.
But to their credit, the Spartans got a pair of buckets from 6-4 senior Jimmy Brackett to go back up by three with 22 seconds remaining. Still, the Mounts had a chance in the end. Trailing by two after a Matt Herbener free throw, a missed front end of a one-and-one gave Ephrata the ball with a chance to tie or win the game with 5.7 seconds to go.
Senior Jeremy Franck took it down the left side but his shot was off the mark and Garden Spot survived with an exciting 55-53 non-league victory.
"I thought overall the kids played the whole way to the end," Coletti said following the game. "That’s all I can ask from them at this point, but good things will happen to them. We’ll learn how to win."
"Obviously the last couple seasons have been tough for them. They need to learn how to win. They did show a lot of pride, getting down nine and then coming back to take the lead… They could have folded the tent. They didn’t, and on the positive side that is definitely a plus."
Ephrata faced its biggest deficit at 12 early the third quarter when Brackett, who led the Spartans with a team-high 16, completed a three-point play to put Garden Spot up 32-20. But Neff, who sat for the entire second period after getting whistled for a technical foul, caught fire.
Neff, a senior who led the Mounts with a game-high 17, nailed a three and scored on three-straight trips to quickly cut the deficit to five at 32-27. A trey by Garden Spot’s Mark Dunn (8 points) later in the period put his team back up by eight, but the Mounts wouldn’t go away as Franck converted a rebound before Aaron Hubbard drained a trey late to make it a 39-36 game heading to the fourth.
Garden Spot (2-1) appeared to break it open for good early in the fourth when Ephrata started the period with five offensive trips that came up empty. On the flip side, Brackett converted a pair of putbacks before Adam Siegrist (10 points) drained a three to make it 46-36 Spartans with 5:43 to go.
But again, the Mounts didn’t go away, eventhough GS still led 51-43 with 3:35 remaining. After a Neff putback that made it 51-45 with 2:31 to go, the Mounts slapped on a fullcourt press that would force five turnovers in the next minute and a half. Offensively, Franck (14 points) drained a three and sank a pair of free throws to cut it to one. Then, Neff stole an inbounds pass and converted an easy lay-up with 1:15 to go and the Mounts suddenly had their first lead of the game.
"Jeremy definitely had a big fourth quarter," Coletti said. "And Brian made some big shots. That’s the senior leadership we were asking them to do. We got a big steal off the inbounds play, took the lead and I thought we were in good shape. It wasn’t meant to be but hopefully we learn from it."
Coletti said the key to the late turnaround came from the defensive end.
"We applied our press and got some good stuff off of it and we kept creeping back into the game," he said. "Then we got the lead and we were going to stay in it until they broke it a couple times. They didn’t really figure it out. The clock just kind of ran out on us."
A big reason for that was the play of Brackett, who proved to be a matchup problem for the Mounts all night long.
"He’s tough," said Coletti. "He’s 6-4 and bigger than any kid we have. He has nice moves around the basket. I thought we did a very good job boxing him out. He’s 6-4 and our tallest guys is 6-2. We did out best keeping him off the boards, and hopefully the next time things just go a little better."
Even Coletti agreed, despite the loss, this was one from which his Mounts can build.
"Absolutely," he said. "(We) were asking them how the play was in this game compared to last year, and they said this was the best game they played in so hopefully they get used to playing in pressure situations. It’s tough the first time. It’s just difficult, but they’ll grow from it. They’ll benefit. I’m proud of them for the way they kept fighting. They keep doing that, good things will happen."
Ephrata travels to Muhlenberg Wednesday night for a non-league tilt, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The Mounts open league play Friday night at home with a key crossover contest vs. McCaskey, beginning at 8 p.m. More MOUNTS, page B-7